How to find a tech co-founder aka CTO?

As the Managing Director of Startup42, a startup accelerator based on the campus of EPITA (the top computer-science engineering school in France), I get asked A LOT this question. And as I had the chance to witness many startup stories fold and unfold, I will tell you my three golden rules to find a technical cofounder:

Golden rule n°1: Search within who you are

If you’re just starting your startup, chances are that you think you have nothing else to share but equity. Which means literally nothing at that point. And you have to compete with other companies that can offer their brand, their money and their perks (insurance, security, food etc.).

A good developer these days

Knowing that developers are real rockstars at the moment, be sure that they get offers you can’t match.

But they miss one thing for sure: YOU

You are unique. Your mission is unique. Your adventure is unique. So you should play as much as you can with this.

That means:

  • Searching within your friends and friends of friends. Simply because they like you for who you are. Co-workers can also be a good fit. I’ve seen many successful startups started by people who used to work at the same place (generally another successful startup!)
Your friends when you ask them to join your startup
  • Searching within your passions and/or the mission of your startup. If you’re starting a startup related to music, you’ll find a much better cofounder if you put an offer in a Facebook music group where you’re already active than if you put it in a “CEO searching CTO” group. If you’re passionate about a sport, search within your teammates. If your startup is about making the life of photographers easier, search within people who are fond of photography etc.
You’re already in the same team!
  • Talking a lot about what you do. Not only going to pitching contests and meetups, but also writing about your story and asking everyone who you should talk to. Be resourceful and show what you are working on to as many people as you can
Maybe that’s a bit too much…

This leads us to the next golden rule:

Golden rule n°2: Do as much as you can

There are a thousand ways to move on with your project, test your hypothesis and start acquiring users that do not require a single line of coding. Find the ones who fit with your project and use them.

Sure, you won’t have the perfect product yet but you’ll already have something. Something that you can show to your future cofounder so that he is convinced your project is a lot more than just your idea and some empty equity talks.

If you’re really good at that and your project doesn’t need a tech cofounder but just a employee that knows how to code, maybe the steps you already took will be enough to get public or private fundings and hire someone.

If you have some initial capital, you could also pay yourself the services of an agency specialised in building first versions of products that allow you to test your idea.

Golden rule n°3: Don’t be afraid to Code
Probably you right now

I’m serious. Dead serious. Learning how to code is not that long and not that difficult (I mean soon your children will know how to code at the age of 8!). And quickly it’ll be enough to:

  • Build the first version of your product
  • Be able to talk with a tech guy so that he knows you’re not a total noob and that you know what’s ahead
  • Know what skills to actually look for
  • Increase the value of your profile by over 9000 if you were to work in a company again some day

There are many good moocs or even schools to learn how to code!

Final word

You can always try to find your cofounder the way it’s the most advertised: here are many websites helping you to find a (tech) cofounder. But really, it’s like trying to find love on Tinder. Some do find it, but most end up alone after a one night stand…

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